I was awakened from a sound sleep at 4:00 a.m. this morning by a stabbing pain in my foot. It felt like… well, I pretty much nailed it when I described it as a “stabbing” pain.

I threw back the covers, rolled out of bed, and hobbled downstairs to the bathroom to see what had happened. Was it a bug bite? A severe cramp? Bleary-eyed, I tried to take a look to see if… Wait — that’s what it felt like; it felt like someone had driven a NAIL through my foot.

[Have you ever wondered why nails come in so many sizes? There’s the length in inches — what difference does it make if you use a 2 1/2″ vs. 2 5/8″? — and then there’s that mysterious “girth” measurement of the shank, expressed as #6, #8, #10, etc. Is there some relevance to the increasing lengths and thicknesses, or are some nails just trying to brag?]

My stumbling downstairs roused the cats from their slumber, so both Nate and Miles sauntered into the bathroom to see what I was up to and immediately clamored to be fed. Cats — at least, our cats — are like that; regardless of whether they’ve just been served their dinner five minutes ago, if I walk into the kitchen to get something from the fridge, I’ll turn around and nearly step on one of them hanging out by my feet, looking for a snack. It’s not like I bolt upright in the morning to exclaim, “I WANT A HOT DOG RIGHT NOW!” Or when Carol gets up from the couch while we’re watching TV to make some peanut butter crackers for herself — I don’t silently sidle up behind her and then she’s startled when she turns around and finds me there, dropping the plate of crackers on the floor and the cats come over to nibble on the crumbs and I have to figure out how to clean peanut butter off the linoleum.

Maybe it is like that.

But back to crackers nails my foot — I finally noticed a small, red, pin-sized prick on the outer side of my right foot (which was a bitch to get a look at, requiring a hand mirror and minor neck strain) with a mottled rash rapidly spreading along the edge. What the hell could this be? I quickly ran through the list of possibilities in my head:

  1. Bug bite.
  2. Nail puncture.

I could only come up with those two. After a brief period of reflection, I opted for #1 since I thought it unlikely that a nail had found its way into the bedroom and then inserted itself into the side of my foot. The odds were much more in favor of some rogue spider getting trapped under the covers and deciding to sting his or her way to freedom.

I found some Biofreeze in the cabinet and slathered it over the affected area. Now I was experiencing a host of sensations — stabbing pain, freezing cold, and burning nostrils/watering eyes from the gel’s overwhelming mentholated vapor. I limped back upstairs to the bedroom, nearly tripping over both cats who were now strewn across the steps. I started to slide back under the covers but realized I should check for spiders, so I yanked up the sheets and turned on my phone’s flashlight to conduct a quick examination. Between the sudden illumination and the billowing sheets, I managed to awaken Carol from a sound sleep.

And just like that — I felt another stabbing pain. This time I was more certain of the source, which after the attack uttered a brief curse and then rolled back onto her side of the bed. I steeled myself for the next assault that was surely coming as soon as the mentholated vapor wafted her way.